An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday shows that Pope Francis is hugely popular among Roman Catholics in America. The poll came out on the same day that Time magazine named the pope its “Person of the Year” for 2013.
Since his elevation to the papacy in March of this year, the Argentinian pontiff’s personal humility and compassion have combined to endear him to both the press and the general population around the world. The controversial economic comments contained in his apostolic exhortation released on November 24, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Gospel of Joy”), appear to have done little to diminish his popularity among Roman Catholics in the United States.
Among the approximately 20% of poll respondents who self-identified as Roman Catholics, 92% had a favorable image of Pope Francis. The results were 16% higher than the 76% favorable rating Roman Catholics in America had of former Pope Benedict XVI in a poll conducted in February 2013.
Among the approximately 80% of poll respondents who self-identified as non-Roman Catholics, 62% had a favorable image of Pope Francis. The results were 14% higher than the 48% favorable rating non-Roman Catholics in America had of former Pope Benedict XVI in the February 2013 poll.
When Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics in America were combined, 69% had a favorable image of Pope Francis. The results were 15% higher than the 54% favorable rating all Americans had of former Pope Benedict XVI in the February 2013 poll.
The poll also examined views of the pope based on the political affiliation of the respondent. Among all Americans, 77% of Democrats had a favorable view of Pope Francis, while 68% of Republicans had a favorable view. In February, 66% of Republicans had a favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI, while only 50% of Democrats had a favorable view.
The dramatic increase in the number of Democrats who now hold favorable views of Pope Francis but did not view his predecessor favorably–a huge jump of 27% from 50% to 77%–is likely to have an impact on the American political dialogue in 2014 and 2016. This is particularly the case in light of conservative criticisms of the Pope’s statements on economics, which many characterized as an attack on free market principles.
The poll of 1,006 American adults was conducted in English and Spanish by landline and cell phones during the five-day period beginning December 4 and ending December 8. It has a margin of error of 3.5% for the population as a whole. An estimated 200 of the respondents self-identified as Roman Catholics. Poll results specific to Roman Catholics have a higher margin of error.